Today I was trying to figure out how to make the pop-up flash on my camera (Canon Rebel EOS) more subject-friendly. I HATE using my built-in flash because the lighting is SO harsh. Using a diffuser can really make a HUMONGO difference in softening the light from your flash, and makes your subject look SOooooo much more appealing...and natural.
It's a simple idea...imagine a lamp with its lampshade on. The light it gives off is nice and soft and it doesn't cast harsh shadows or create raging glare. Remove the shade and you get a bare bulb which casts light that is more suited for interrogation and torture sessions. So, basically, a diffuser is a lampshade for your flash.
It can be made out of anything semi-opaque and white (cloth, paper, plastic)...as long as SOME light can pass through it. I read somewhere how to make a VERY simple light diffuser using a Post It note. It works ok...but it kept falling off, even with tape. I also saw a video about making one out of a white plastic film canister (like any of us have film canisters laying around anymore). So, today, I went searching the internet for places to buy a diffuser. Some of those suckers were like $50. Can you believe it????
They ain't cheap.
And, I am.
So...after getting all disgusted with the prices for a "store bought" diffuser, I set out to make my own. I watched several videos on Youtube and finally landed on combining a couple of techniques I saw. I made mine out of an empty coffee creamer bottle like this one below. I removed the plastic covering to reveal the white container underneath (it just peels right off)
It actually worked!
I'll explain how to make your own later in this post. For now, here are examples of the same shot without and with my homemade diffuser. I put my camera in auto mode and shot the same test subject in the same lighting. These pictures are not retouched or altered in any way...they're as they came straight out of my camera.
WITHOUT the diffuser
Notice the harsh glare and washed-out colors of the card. That cardstock looks grey, not black. And look at that hard shadow on the right. Yuck.
WITH the diffuser
The improvement in color and the lessening of that harsh shadow is very noticeable. AND, that glare is GREATLY reduced.
WITHOUT the diffuser
Washed out, glarefest.
WITH the diffuser
Much better. Warmer light, truer colors, decreased glare.
So you can see...the simple addition of a diffuser over your flash makes a HUGE difference! This will really save time when it comes to "correcting" everything in Photoshop afterwards!
As promised, here is how I made mine.
I drew this pattern in Photoshop. The measurements of this pattern are for my Canon EOS. If you want to make your own for a different type of camera, I suggest you print out the pattern on paper, cut it out, and see if it fits. You'll probably have to make some minor adjustments so that it fits your camera. Once you've finalized your pattern:
- Just use the pattern to cut out a piece of BENDABLE white plastic (or you could use heavy cardstock)
- fold up along the fold line so that diffuser is covering front of flash (you want a couple of inches space between the diffuser and your flash)
- Insert tab into the hot shoe under flash
Here is what it looks like mounted on the camera (photo taken with my phone). Since I made mine from a coffee creamer bottle, it has a natural curve to it. I actually like that feature...it makes it look like a sailboat. And, like a curved lampshade, it diffuses the light very evenly.
Here is the pattern!
It's 6.25 inches long from the top of the diffuser to the bottom of its tab, and 5 inches wide at the main part (if you need specific dimensions of all the parts, contact me).
TIPS for customizing pattern to fit YOUR camera:
- The tab at the bottom should fit snugly in the hot shoe assembly under your flash. The little "wings" on the bottom of the tab prevent it from sliding back out and should be slightly wider than the shoe.
- The fold line should rest on the lip of the flash housing (where the flash goes when it's not popped up).
- The material you choose to make your diffuser should still allow light to glow through it. Test it by holding whatever you want to use up to a bare light bulb...if you can still see the bulb itself, you need heavier material. If you can just see a soft, general light...you're good to go.
May your life be filled with photo ops!